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In honor of Vista's release.


(New York readers will be interested in this New York Times breakdown of where to go to try lots of scotch, published a few days ago.)

Check out this article on the subject of a Rye revival. My San Francisco hosts Trevor and Camille (thanks!) took me to the Alembic where without knowing much about the subject we tried the Best Tasting rye and two of the three Best Values (only to head home and have the third). The article is right, they're all really good. Furthermore it was lots of fun to drink them all together and compare.


Old News, Neat Graphic


whiskey and water


Snake News

An escaped python strangled a 51-year-old woman to death at a zoo in Stavropol in southwest Russia, Interfax reported, citing the local prosecutor's office.

The woman's body was found Monday morning with traces of snake skin embedded in strangulation marks in her neck, Interfax said. The woman may have worked in a small zoo attached to a circus and may have been attacked while drunk, Interfax said.

The two-meter-long snake has since been caught and returned to its cage.

I considered manipulating this newsbite by placing it in Japan.

I still may.


Japanese exceptionalism month continues

Dateline: NOZAWAONSEN, Japan
Every Jan. 15, the village's 25-year-old men consume impossible amounts of alcohol to buoy their courage ahead of a violent rite of passage. Using only pine branches, they defend a 65-foot-tall wooden shrine from the older men of the village, who attack it fiercely with torches lit from a sacred bonfire.

Thanks to Sam for the tip.


Yukio Mishima

The posts referring to political hari-kari and the Emperor's honor remind me of Mishima, one of Japan's most celebrated writers at the time of this incident:

On November 25, 1970, Mishima and four members of the Tatenokai (Mishima's "Shield Society" of young martial artists loyal to him) under a pretext visited the commandant of the Ichigaya Camp - the Tokyo headquarters of the Eastern Command of Japan's Self-Defense Forces. Once inside, they proceeded to barricade the office and tied the commandant to his chair. With a prepared manifesto and banner listing their demands, Mishima stepped onto the balcony to address the gathered soldiers below. His speech was intended to inspire them to stage a coup d'etat and restore the Emperor to his rightful place. He succeeded only in irritating them and was mocked and jeered. As he was unable to make himself heard, he finished his planned speech after only a few minutes. He stepped back into the commandant's office and committed seppuku. The customary kaishakunin duty (the "Second's" duty: after seppuku the Second decapitates the suicide, so he won't suffer too greatly from the pain of self inflicted disembowelment) at the end of this ritual had been assigned to Tatenokai member Masakatsu Morita. But Morita, who was rumored to have been Mishima's lover, was unable to perform this task properly: after several failed attempts, he allowed another Tatenokai member, Hiroyasu Koga, to finish the job. Morita then attempted seppuku and was also beheaded by Koga.

...Make It A Quartet

Matayoshi Mitsuo is an eccentric Japanese politician with the conviction that he is the God and Christ. According to his program, he will do the Last Judgement as the Christ but the way to do this is totally within the current political system and its legitimacy. His first step as the Savior is to be appointed the prime minister of Japan. Then he will reform Japanese society and then the United Nations should offer him the honor of its General Secretary. Then Matayoshi Jesus will reign over the whole world with two legitimate authorities, not only religious but also political.

He has presented himself in many elections but he has not won yet. He has become well-known for his eccentric campaigns where he urges opponents to commit suicide by hara-kiri.

Completing A Wacky Japanese Triad

Shoichi Yokoi (横井 庄一 Yokoi Shōichi, March 31, 1915 - September 22, 1997) was a Japanese soldier and celebrity. Born in Saori, Aichi Prefecture, he was conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army in 1941 and sent to Guam shortly thereafter. In 1944, as American forces reconquered the island, Yokoi went into hiding.

On January 24, 1972, Yokoi was discovered in a remote section of Guam by two of the island's inhabitants. For 28 years he had been hiding in an underground jungle cave, fearing to come out of hiding even after finding leaflets declaring that World War II had ended.

"It is with much embarrassment that I have returned alive," he said upon his return to Japan, carrying his rusted rifle at his side. The remark would later become a popular saying (in Japanese, 「帰ってまいりました・・・恥ずかしながら、生きながらえて帰ってまいりました」).

After a whirlwind media tour of Japan, he married and settled down in rural Aichi Prefecture. Having lived alone in a cave for 28 years, Yokoi became a popular television personality, and an advocate of austere living. He was featured in a 1977 documentary called Yokoi and His Twenty-Eight Years of Secret Life on Guam. He would eventually receive the equivalent of $300 in back pay, along with a small pension.

In 1991, he received an audience with Emperor Akihito. He considered the meeting the greatest honor of his life. He had even prepared a speech of regret to read to the emperor. Months later, Yokoi told a Japanese journalist that he had in fact had a deeply personal reason for remaining isolated:

"I had a tough childhood, among many unkind relatives," he explained. "I stuck to the jungle because I wanted to get even with them."

Yokoi died in 1997 of a heart attack at the age of 82. He was buried at a Nagoya cemetery, under a gravestone that was initially commissioned by his mother in 1955. Visitors to Guam can take a short ropeway ride to 'Yokoi's Cave' a (very rundown) tourist attraction/monument to Yokoi's life. The cave itself is sealed off; only the entrance and airhole are visible.


This Week's Aging Japan Story: The Silver Scourge

Poor financial planning, inadequate pensions and a feeling of immunity to the law are driving Japan's swelling ranks of old people into a life of crime. According to the Tokyo-based National Police Agency, 10.9% of all crime recorded in Japan in 2005 was committed by people over the age of 65. Most incidents involved shoplifting, insurance fraud or minor scams. But the figures, released in early January, did not include arrests for injurious traffic accidents, most of which involve elderly drivers (particularly of taxis). With a quarter of Japan's population projected to be over 65 by 2014, the government is planning to unveil in March a series of proposals for beating the superannuated crime-wave.

News of Japan's criminal pensioners coincided with new statistics about its greying population. The Internal Affairs Ministry revealed in January that the proportion of citizens aged 20 had fallen to a record low of 1.09%.


100 Person Flashmob Randomly Chases After People

...with bonus Japanese laugh-track.